The last weekend of summer is upon us. And while many of us are focused on one more break before the fall routine sets in, the bill-payer in the family might also be thinking about ways to minimize the fuel expenditure for that last getaway. We hear you. So we talked to two experts in the industry to compile tips to help you save fuel, and also to gain some insight into fuel efficiency overall.
Grant Weber is a Fuel Economy Engineer at Ford, and James Macias is the Fuels Technology Group Manager at Shell Global Solutions, and they both have a wealth of knowledge and experience in making the most of a gallon of gasoline.
How long have each of you been fuel economy experts at your companies?
Grant: I’ve been a full-time employee at Ford since 2005, and served as a fuel economy engineer for the past three years. During this time I’ve worked on the all-new Fiesta and 2012 Focus. This allowed me to gain experience working on cars and with teams that had fuel efficiency in mind, as we introduced several new fuel efficient technologies and achieved a 40 mpg highway fuel economy label for both products.
James: By academic training I am an Organic Chemist. I have spent the past 25 years working as a scientist at Shell, most of that time in fuels technology, and especially in the automotive fuels area.
What is the biggest single factor that affects real-world fuel economy?
James: It really depends. There are so many different variables at play including the condition of the road and the vehicle, traffic congestion, and driving behavior. For example, if you are stuck idling in congested traffic the biggest factor is the traffic itself. When you idle you get zero miles-per-gallon!
Grant: A person’s driving behavior can have a significant impact on the fuel economy he or she sees in their vehicle. Specifically, rapid accelerations can waste fuel and hard braking is an inefficient way to drive.
What things can a person can do that will have the biggest impact on their fuel economy?
Grant: Obviously, selecting a fuel efficient vehicle that fits your needs is a great way to save at the pump over the long-term. Beyond this, there are a variety of things a person can do to maximize their fuel efficiency:
James: We’ve introduced the Shell Smarter Driving Program that can help drivers MAP their way to greater fuel efficiency:
What have you found that surprised you about fuel economy?
James: A couple of things. Firstly, it is amazing to see how emerging engine and vehicle technology can achieve significant improvements in Fuel Efficiency, while maintaining excellent vehicle performance. Secondly, there is quite a lot that consumers can do to get the most out of every drop of fuel they purchase.
Grant: What has been instilled in me as a Ford fuel economy engineer is that fuel efficiency is not some kind of voodoo magic, but rather great fuel economy comes from making great product decisions about every aspect of the vehicle. So, what keeps this job exciting is finding the right combination of new technologies and designs that give our customers a great fuel economy solution.
What are three examples of technology Ford has implemented in current production vehicles to improve fuel economy?
Grant: Ford has been a leader in introducing fuel saving technology across our fleet of cars. Obviously, the Ford EcoBoost™ strategy has played a defining role in delivering fuel economy leadership. With this strategy, we have replaced V8s with boosted V6s, and replaced traditional V6s with boosted I4s in many of our vehicles. This has allowed us to deliver fuel economy gains while still providing power and performance to our customers.
Another great use of fuel saving technology is the active grille shutter system that was recently introduced in the 2012 Ford Focus. This grille shutter system monitors the cooling needs of the engine to optimize the aerodynamics of the vehicle. When closed, the grille shutters contribute to a significant reduction in aerodynamic drag, which leads to a great fuel economy improvement, especially at highway speeds.
Ford has also implemented a smart battery management system in the 2012 Focus that ensures that the battery is being charged in the most efficient way possible. This advanced system maximizes the alternator operation at optimal charging times, contributing to an improvement in fuel economy.
What are some things that oil companies, and Shell specifically, are doing to impact fuel efficiency?
James: Shell recently launched the Shell Smarter Driving program highlighting to everyday drivers that they, too, can use simple tips to stretch their fuel and budget. The Shell Smarter Driving program helps consumers “MAP” their journey to smarter driving and shows how they can go farther on less fuel. MAP stands for Maintenance – Perform smart maintenance before you drive, Actions – Practice smart actions and behaviors while you’re behind the wheel, and Products – which includes purchasing quality products such as Shell Nitrogen Enriched Gasolines.
What are Shell Nitrogen Enriched Gasolines and why are quality fuels important?
James: A clean engine typically runs more efficiently. Lower quality gasoline can leave behind harmful deposits or “gunk”, which can build up on critical parts of the engine such as intake valves and fuel injectors. These deposits can negatively impact engine performance, vehicle responsiveness and cause the engine to be less efficient than it was originally designed by the manufacturer. All three grades of Shell Nitrogen Enriched Gasolines help clean up the performance-robbing gunk left by lower quality gasolines, so the engine can perform at its best.